Trumpeter | F-8E Crusader

Reviewed by David Jones

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In 1952, the US Navy announced a requirement for a new daytime fighter to bring their carrier aircraft up to the increased requirements of the Cold War. It was to have a top speed of Mach 1.2 at 30,000 ft with a climb rate of 25,000 ft/min, and a landing speed of no more than 100 mph. The new fighter was to carry a 20 mm (0.8 in) cannon since experience in Korea had taught that smaller .50cal machine guns were no longer adequate. John Russell Clark led a team at Vought which created the V-383. Competition for this new Naval fighter came from the Grumman F-11 Tiger, McDonnell with the precursor to the Phantom II; the upgraded twin-engine F3H Demon, and North American with their F-100 Super Sabre adopted for carrier use and dubbed the Super Fury. The V-383 won that competition and the Crusader was born.

Vought had not enjoyed great success in the years following WWII and very much needed a win at this point in time. They did however have a reputation for thinking outside of the box in order to meet the demands of the Navy. The F-4U Corsair and the radical XF5U 'Flying Pancake' being two examples.

One of the most unusual aspects of the Crusader design was the variable incidence wing which could be hydraulically raised from the fuselage by seven degrees. This created additional lift by increasing the angle of attack while the aircraft itself remained level in flight, allowing much better over-the-nose visibility by the pilot. Leading edge slats and drooped ailerons added even more lift at low speeds. The first prototype flew in 1955 and achieved supersonic speeds on its maiden flight.

While there would be variants of the F-8 after the E version, the E was effectively the final production version of the aircraft. All subsequent versions would be upgrades or remanufactured variants of earlier aircraft. The F-8E incorporated several modifications among which were detachable wing pylons and additional avionics. These avionics upgrades allowed the Crusader to carry the AGM-12 Bullpup missiles and were housed beneath a noticeable hump between the wings. The underwing points were not 'wet' (fuel capable) until the J model. Unique 'Y' racks were mounted to the sides of the fuselage and allowed the Crusader to carry 4X AIM-9 air-to-air missiles or 4X Zuni air-to-ground pods.

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The Kit

This much anticipated kit is the first F-8 Crusader available in 1/32. The first thing you'll notice is that this is a very large box! Upon opening the typically sturdy Trumpeter box you'll immediately notice that it contains a very large model! The Trumpeter website lists the length at 256.4 mm (10.09 in) but this is incorrect. My crude measurement using the trusty tape measure puts this at approx. 533.4 mm (21 in) in length. There are 345 parts molded in light gray styrene on 11 sprues, 1 sprue of small clear parts, 1 fret of photo-etcehd parts and the two canopy pieces which are contained in a separate box. The instructions are very clear with plenty of large illustrations on twenty pages. A large full-color foldout is provided for painting and decal instruction. The painting instructions are based on Mr. Hobby Mr. Color paints. Decals are provided for two aircraft; VF-162 USS Oriskany (July 1968) and VF-194 USS Ticonderoga (1968). I was pleasantly surprised to see that Trumpeter seems to have figured out their decals with this release! The geometry of the insignia is correct and the colors are of good registry. They seem to be fairly thin and should work nicely. While some data stencils are provided I'm sure that many more were visible on the actual aircraft.

The first area I wanted to take a closer look at was the fuselage. It would appear that Trumpeter has been listening, because the surface detail here is refined, crisp and restrained. There are rivets but they are in no way the overdone rivets that have been the primary complaint about other releases. Panel lines are uniform in depth and width and are again very nicely done. I can't imagine that anyone would feel the need to re-do these surface details in any way. While I was unable to obtain line drawings in time for this review, the overall shape of the fuselage is very accurate when compared to the many pictures I have available. The intake leading edge is razor thin, unlike the A-7 kit. An internal lip allows the intake to be installed without thickening the leading edge, although there will be seams to deal with as is the case with most injection-molded intakes. More on the intake when we cover the engine assembly.

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Next up is the cockpit, and here the news is slightly less enthusiastic, but still pretty good overall. The kit parts will allow the modeler to build a reasonably busy-looking cockpit that does include some wiring and other areas that can be highlighted with a wash or dry-brushing. The instrument panel is not the typical clear sandwiched affair that Trumpeter often uses, but simply a molded piece with instrument faces. There is no molded detail to the gauges and no decal included for dial faces. It would fall to the modeler to attempt to paint these details freehand or use punched decals from the spares box. The seat however seems to be one of the better attempts I've seen in styrene. Made up of eight pieces to add depth, it seems like it could be made into a reasonable bang seat OOB. Photo-etched belts are included. Avionix has already released a full resin cockpit for this model that offers a more detailed alternative, although it, too, offers no detail for instrument faces. To round out the cockpit is the canopy. Here we have two clear pieces that appear accurate in shape and have the added touch of "shaded" or "fogged" areas where the canopy is to be masked and painted.

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The J-57 included in this kit is the same as that included in the F-100D release so I won't spend a great deal of time reviewing it again. Since there are no provisions for opening up the engine area on this kit I imagine that many will build just what is needed for the exhaust area. The engine face is generally wrong but will be invisible in the assembled model. The intake is a two-piece affair which terminates in a flat ending with no engine face. It is shorter than the actual intake would need to be, and from most normal viewing angles the lack of detail here is irrelevant, but you can see all the way back there if you try really hard. It would've been nice to allow for even a crude engine face. As I mentioned before, the engineering of the intake makes for a very thin lip and appears to be very much 'in scale' as opposed to the A-7 kits. Unfortunately, there is a very large ejector pin hole on each side of the fuselage at the intake area which will need to be filled and sanded. There will also be some seams to deal with. It remains to be seen if the aftermarket will respond with a seamless alternative. If anyone tries it will have to either be extremely thin, or involve cutting away parts of the fuselage.

The landing gear is all plastic. Considering the size of this model it might've been prudent to include some metal here to add stability to what will surely be a rather heavy finished product. The LG bays are very nicely detailed with several small bits to add some plumbing to the molded bays. Although very nice OOB I would imagine that some of the resin makers might jump in here and offer some super-detailed alternatives. Unlike many Trumpeter releases, the wheels are traditional styrene instead of the vinyl or rubber tires they often include.

Those of us who like having lots of access panels displayed open will have a field day with this release! The access panels for the four cannons can be opened and include some very nicely detailed assemblies inside. The variable wing can be modeled in the extended or closed position. If opened there is lots of detail in the space beneath the wing. The air brake can also be modeled in the open position, and I have at least one picture of the brake partially extended while on the ground, so it isn't completely out of the question to do this. The in-flight refueling probe can be modeled in the extended position. Lastly the ram air turbine (RAT) can be extended as well. If built with all of these areas opened up will be plenty of details to catch the eye!

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So its all good all around, right? Well.... Now we look at the armament, which is where things get a little bit wonky. The kit includes 2X AIM-9 Sidewinders and 2X Zuni rocket pods for the Y racks on the sides of the fuselage. I can find no reference to this mixed load being carried however. Typically these aircraft would carry four 'winders for air superiority missions or four Zuni pods for ground suppression roles. For under-wing stores we have 2X AGM-12 Bullpups which the aircraft was designed to carry, 2X AGM-62 Walleyes & 2X AGM-45 Shrikes (Neither of these was ever carried by the F-8 that I can find) and two GBU-15's - that the F-8 was capable of carrying, but I've never seen any pictures. The GBU-15's are also missing their forward strakes. If you happen to have the Trumpeter US Arms Set: A weapons set you can add a second pair of Sidewinders. You can also add the other stores from this kit to that box to expand your spares.

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In conclusion, it would appear that Trumpeter brought their A Game! There may be no such thing as a 'perfect kit' and I'm sure that issues will be pointed out on this offering by some. In my opinion this represents a real win, however. The shape is good, the surface details restrained, and lots of detail right from the box. I'm very anxious to see what the aftermarket will offer, particularly decal releases, but a very good Crusader can be built without anything added!

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© David Jones 2008

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This review was published on Saturday, July 02 2011; Last modified on Friday, January 27 2017